|English | Español||January 22, 2018 | Issue #41|
In Nezahualcoyotl, Marcos Announces that May 1 Labor March “Will Meet In Front of the U.S. Embassy” in Mexico City
Thousands of Workers in “Neza York” Greet the Zapatista Subcomandante and Join with the Other Campaign
By Al Giordano
Citizens of Nezahualcoyotl sing the Mexican National Anthem on April 26.
Photo: D.R. 2006 Roberto Chan Kin Ortega Pèrez
The announcement came one day after Mexican Interior Minister Carlos Abascal sought a meeting with the military commander of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials), which has shunned any and all contact with the federal government for the past five years. Abascal worried aloud during a meeting with Catholic bishops about Marcos’ daily vow that the national rebellion he is fomenting “will topple the federal government.” Today, Marcos answered the top functionary of the administration of president Vicente Fox, saying: “What we are proposing is to defeat the evil governments.” Referring to Abascal’s apparent confusion over what that means, he said: “I repeat: we will topple the municipal mayors, the state governments and the government of the republic, put them all in jail, kick the bankers, the big mall owners and capitalists out of the country and defeat the capitalist system!”
“We are looking for you to rise up with us,” he told a multitude of thousands. “We are looking for elders… for women… for independent salespeople… for taxi drivers… for store employees… for young people… for children… for people who think that the solution is not found above.” The incendiary discourse grows sharper and more indignant each day of this six-month tour of all of Mexico, as this voice behind a mask listens to the grievances of people pushed to the limit by poverty and systemic disrespect by the demands of government and commerce upon them.
Here, Marcos did not find a predominance of activists or political organizers, but, rather, real people – “normal people” commented Rebeldía magazine editor Sergio Ramírez Lascano to the Other Journalism – who seemed as ready for the fight as the rebels of Chiapas have shown themselves to be. Those in power are growing worried for good reason. What is occurring along this Other Campaign road may be happening “under radar” in the sense that the news is either boycotted or distorted by the Commercial Media, but twice in recent days high officials from the Mexican state – last week, Fox’s indigenous affairs secretary upset about the Zapatista vow to go to war against a mega-energy project in the state of Guerrero, this week his chief of staff trying to figure out what “topple the government” means – have been unable to keep quiet about the source of their growing discomfort. The nervous and sudden lack of silence from above directly corresponds to the emboldened lack of silence from below that the Other Campaign is unleashing.
This 43-year-old municipality and emblem of urban sprawl, named for the prehispanic poet and philosopher Nezahualcoyotl (1402-1472), is commonly referred to by its residents as “Neza” and often as “Neza York.” Some of the 1.2 million residents of this city – who live in a population density of more than 19,000 people per square kilometer, or more than 50,000 per square mile – shared with the ski-masked rebel their city’s “story of exploitation” from the violent repression by large landowners of impoverished colonists in the 1950s, to the “deep drainage” of nearby Lake Texcoco and corresponding eco-disaster in the 1960s from the construction of hundreds of kilometers of drainage pipes (Mexico City is sinking today precisely because of that engineering boondoggle), the repression against and assassination of community leaders, and the modern-day displacement of its street salespeople and other workers – including the elimination of the last farm and ranch lands of the city – to make room for shopping malls and the businesses of foreign companies.
“History has left its mark on Neza,” said a man named Carlos, one of two city residents who made brief statements introducing Delegate Zero. “But the reverse will soon happen. The people of the City of Nezahualcoyotl will soon leave our mark upon this country.”
“This is a city of social fighters,” said Juan Miranda, a meatpacker fired six weeks ago when the city government of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) shut the doors of the municipal meat storage locker that 10,000 cattle raising families from the dwindling local ranchlands had depended upon. “But today we can find those social fighters sniffing at the bones of the government and the struggles are left behind.” He later told the Other Journalism that the assault on the remaining ranchers and farmers within the municipality was related to “the sale of the nation’s resources to foreign interests” as farm and ranchland gives way to Wal-Marts and other multinational shopping centers.
“The countryside is being exterminated,” he told the crowd as it waited for Marcos to arrive, “and we will all have to go to the United States to find work.”
The struggle for land – as the Zapatista testimony-taking tour through the Mexican Southeast, South and Center since January 1 has revealed again and again – goes hand in hand here, as elsewhere, with the struggle for water. Related to the 1967 drainage of Lake Texcoco, water is scarce in the city, and sometimes doesn’t arrive. “The water comes out dirty. It smells,” said Luis León of Fuerza Cuidadano Pro-de la Supremacía del Poder Civil (“Citizen Force in Favor of the Supremacy of Civil Power”), a nonprofit organization, as he waited his turn at the microphone. “Many people here have skin illnesses as a result.”
“In election seasons, such as now, the water just stops running.” Explaining this paradox, León said: “The city government is PRD, the state government is PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) and the national government is PAN (National Action Party). Each party does what it can to discredit the other. So in this election year, the PRI that controls the water just shuts it off to screw the PRD, but it’s the people of all the parties that get screwed. We live under political anarchy. We have gone to the state governor. We went to the World Water Forum in Mexico City. But nobody pays attention to us.”
Over the course of the afternoon, as the crowd gathered to await the arrival of Marcos, members of 36 families – women, men, children, elders, infants – arrived en masse with banners defending “independent salespeople,” what the media calls “ambulants” or street sellers. “We have worked the same areas for fifteen years and the city government has received the taxes we have paid each year for using our spaces,” explained the group’s spokesman, Rafael Pluma. “The city is chasing us out of business now because we refuse to join the political party in power.” He said he hoped the Zapatista Other Campaign, which visits two Mexico City barrios next week – Tepito and La Merced – that are major centers of similar “independent commerce,” will help foster a national alliance of similar workers being displaced throughout Mexico.
The interview with Pluma was interrupted, suddenly, when a dozen Nezahualcoyotl Municipal Police marched in military formation to lower the gigantic tri-color Mexican flag in front of City Hall. The crowd – now having grown to more than 3,000, but still before the arrival of the guest of honor – hushed silent. All that could be heard was the squeaking of the thick metal cable that held the flag upon the pole, and the orders of the captain guiding the lowering of the flag. Spontaneously, the Other Campaign adherents, sympathizers and interested onlookers began to sing… the national anthem:
Mexicans, to the cry of war
prepare your swords and your bridle;
and let the earth tremble at its center
at the cannon’s roar…
…And if a foreign enemy dares
to profane your soil beneath his feet
Think, oh, dear Homeland
that heaven gave you a soldier in each son.
It took eight men to lower and fold the gigantic flag. And thousands to keep its meaning waving high over Nezahualcoyotl.
“To be indigenous, or to be from Neza, means the same thing to those from above,” Marcos later told the multitude, which grew over the hours to include more and more young people as local schools ended sessions at six p.m. He spoke of how the wealthy refer to Nezahualcoyotl citizens as “dirty” or “smelly” and compared that bigotry to the same treatment received by the indigenous of Chiapas before they rose up in arms twelve years ago. “Disrespect, beatings, rape and insult… the persecution of young people for being young, for the clothes you wear, for your music, you are treated as delinquents… Above, they tell you, ‘Neza, stay down!’”
“How much longer,” Marcos asked the assembled, “are we going to take this?” He repeated, again, his call “to destroy the capitalist system from below, and to create something else according to the agreements we reach together.” As he invited the people of Nezahualcoyotle to “celebrate with us” on International Workers Day, next Monday, May 1, in front of the U.S. Embassy, and “march together” to the national palace in Mexico City, Delegate Zero’s optimism grew once again. The national rebellion he is constructing found new allies today in Nezahualcoyotl, on the verge of his entrance, Friday, into Mexico City. “In Neza,” he said, “we have the best people in this country.”
- The Fund for Authentic Journalism